Destructive storms hit KwaZulu-Natal, South Africa


Severe storms wreaked havoc across KwaZulu-Natal, South Africa on February 22 and 23, 2020, triggering flash flooding which killed one woman. Disaster management teams were deployed in affected areas after reports of torn rooftops, uprooted trees, and swept-away vehicles.

Department spokesperson Senzelwe Mzila confirmed that a 28-year-old woman died after her vehicle was washed off a low-lying bridge on the MR01 in KwaDuzuka's Nonti area.

Mzila said there were three persons inside the vehicle including a child, but they managed to escape to higher grounds.

"Unfortunately, a 28-year-old woman lost her footing and got caught in the strong-flowing water and was swept away," he stated. "Her body was found downstream by search and rescue units."

Moreover, IPSS Medical Rescue spokesperson Paul Herbst said the body was located 3 m (10 feet) up in a tree, approximately 1 km (3 280 feet) downstream.

Severe thunderstorms prompted the KZN Cooperative Governance and Traditional Affairs (Cogta) to dispatch disaster management crews to several affected areas in the province. Multiple locations reported damaged trees, torn roofs, and localized flooding.

Herbst added that they received multiple calls about vehicles washed off the bridge in Nonti.

The team also responded to several incidents in the municipalities of Umuziwabantu, Umgeni, Ndwedwe, Umvoti, Kokstad, Umzumbe, Newcastle, Ubuhlebezwe, and Umzimkhulu municipalities.

"Reports received by the department indicate that a number of houses have been submerged underwater due to flooding and some mud houses were totally destroyed in other areas," the department wrote in a statement.

One resident named Gugu Xulu said she had to seek shelter with neighbors after her house collapsed. Another resident named Nontethelelo Mthembu was left injured after her home crumbled, adding that neighbors rescued them from the debris.

In Umzimkhulu, ward nine councilor Nomawethu Madziba said the intense downpour affected one school, destroying classrooms, books, and a hallway.

"We are communicating with the Department of Education," said Madziba. KZN Department of Education spokesperson Kwazi Mthethwa said a team from the provincial disaster management was assessing the damage and would provide a report to the department on the repair cost.

Cogta MEC Sipho Hlomuka advised residents to remain vigilant as the harsh weather continues to pose threats across the province.

"We are appealing to residents to take the necessary precautions in order to protect themselves from the number of incidents that we continue to experience," he said.

"Motorists are urged to not cross low-lying bridges that are flooded. We are also appealing to parents and teachers to ensure that pupils utilize safe routes to go to school and come back."

According to South African weather forecaster Julius Mahlangu, more storms are expected on Thursday, February 27.

Featured image credit: Mhlabunzima Memela

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